Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dye-Free Gingerbread Holiday Traditions, To-Go!

Dye-free (and gluten-free!) holiday cookie and gingerbread house decorating party solutions!
For the last day of school before winter break, both of Z's classes had food-related activities. Her AM Kindergarten teacher was making hot cocoa from scratch, and they do something with candy canes... seeing how many it takes to measure stuff? So I had a dye-free candy cane and dye-free marshmallows in her school bag, ready to go. Only it snowed, and school was cancelled. Aw.

Her other school was still on though, so I sent her there all day instead. While she was gone, I got busy baking gluten-free gingerbread people to bring to the gingerbread decorating party later that afternoon. Where I was "volunteering" to help. Yay.  And I brought an assortment of "safe" dye- and gluten-free goodies and frosting to decorate with!

Dye-Free Deco!
Choco-rocks, UNREAL candies, Surf Sweets jellybeans, Trader Joe's gumdrops, TJ's candy-coated sunflower seeds,
Candy Tree licorice laces, TruJoy peppermints, Whole Foods gummy stars, Surf Sweets gummy bears (in mini packet)
I packed an EasyLunchbox - but not with a lunch or snack... This one was for a mini candy buffet! A little of everything I thought might be similar to what the other kids were getting, or anything that might be fun to decorate a little gingerbread person. Silly Mama. She didn't care about artistry at all. She just crammed on as much candy as she could! Haha!
As you can see, my girl was thrilled with her EasyLunchbox candy buffet and candy-slathered dye- and gluten-free gingerbread people. She didn't even complain about not having colored frosting to pipe on, like the other kids had. (I didn't know what they all were getting. I kept asking the teacher what she had asked other parents to send to share, and she just kept responding that I should bring whatever Z would want. Argh.)

[This post contains affiliate links.]

Here are some of the easier-to-find brands of dye-free candies. I try to keep an assortment on-hand all year round to trade for goodie bags and Trick or Treats and random lollipops from the lady at the emissions testing place. In fact, I keep a small baggie of gum, lollipops, mints, and individual packets of gummy bears and jelly beans in my purse at all times. And Z's morning Kindy teacher keeps a larger bag at school, in case the snack parent or a birthday child brings something we're unprepared for! (Same stuff as my baggie, plus marshmallows and gluten-free cheese crackers, pretzels, and cookies. And a packet of dye-free cotton candy, which so far has been an acceptable sub for anything I've been unable to match.) The afternoon class has several kids with food allergies, so the only food allowed in the classroom is planned ahead by the teacher. Anything brought in from home is handed out on their way out the door.
You can find these items in small natural grocery stores,, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's (anything with the TJ label is all-natural,) Fred Meyer (in their natural section,) and Amazon. I've also found some dye-free stuff at places like World Market, Home Goods, Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshall's! (Including Kimmie's ChocoRocks Naturals, novelty lollipops, vanillin-free chocolates, brands listed above, and more!)

[If you are gluten free, beware - most of the candies at Trader Joe's have gluten, including their gummies, jelly beans, and marshmallows, as do most dye-free licorice brands out there. Bah!]

Your House Or Mine?
My family gets together each year for a gingerbread house decorating party. This would be our first year gluten-free, so I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle it. Let them decorate graham cracker houses like everyone else, but not let them eat them? (We've always eaten them!) *gulp* Bake my own graham crackers to build houses from? Or *double gulp* bake actual gingerbread cookie houses?

I really wasn't up to doing gingerbread math and architecture, and I didn't want to figure out how to cut and bake my own gingerbread house. I looked into buying a special cookie cutter set or baking pan mold, but I was truly at an all-time lazy after making just the cookie people.

Last year I found a dye-free gingerbread house kit from Trader Joe's - a steal at around $8! But that wouldn't work for us this year, since pretty much everything but the icing has gluten in it. I did buy one for the cute little icing people though. They contain casein, so I can't eat them, but the girls can. I gave the rest of the kit to my sister. But for anyone not worried about gluten or dairy, this is a must-find!
Luckily, I found Sensitive Sweets, a gluten-nut-peanut-dairy-egg-free bakery online that sells gluten-free gingerbread house kits. Actual kits. Not just mixes and schematics! As an added bonus, their products are also dairy-free, so Mama can eat some too! Nom! Their basic kit comes with the cookie house (not assembled,) and icing mix, but I paid the extra $10 for the "deluxe" kit with an extra tub of frosting, some seasonal cupcake toppers (that I can re-use for bento! Wahoo!) and Surf Sweets dye-free candies.
Gingerbread House Kit - (FREE of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts)

The EasyLunchbox did double duty, since I just took the one full of leftover candy from her school party and replenished what was used, then trotted it off to my sister's house!

Z's Candy House
(Note the little "flowers" on the front lawn, next to the campfire. I love how she used gluten-free pretzel sticks for logs, and orange ChocoRocks for the fire!)

Since the Sensitive Sweets deluxe kit ended up being around $50 after shipping, I couldn't justify buying more than one. Initially when I ordered it, I told the girls they'd have to share. Maybe one decorates the left and one decorates the right? But I found some gluten-free graham crackers, and built a rudimentary mini house that E was satisfied with, so everyone walked away happy.

I had a bit of a crisis with the icing being too thin, but that was user-error. I'm just no good at vague directions like "add water and mix until thick and glossy." I thought it was plenty thick and glossy when I was putting them together... They made it to my sister's house intact, for our annual gingerbread house decorating party, so all's well that end's well!

E's Little House
In addition to the standard gingerbread boys and girls (and Doctor Who shaped!) gingerbread people, I also made a few "gingerbread sisters" with a little people cookie cutter set. It comes with a bigger kid and little kid, which was perfect for my girls! Although Z chose a regular large gingerbread girl to go with the gingerbread baby in front of her house.

Tools of the Trade
Food for Thought

Gingerbread House Kit - (FREE of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts)         


  1. Too bad you have the habit of eating them.

    This would have been the perfect opportunity to "Decorate as a decorations, NOT a dessert"! Like my sister's family does.

    1. I like to vote with my dollar, so don't buy dye-filled stuff. This is way too expensive to waste! Haha!


Go ahead! Tell me how awesome I am. Or ask a question. Whatever.

(Please note that I had to disable Anonymous comments. Too many spam comments coming through the filters.)